Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane was a happy man when 17 of the 25 players called up for national team duty reported for camp in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Bafana Bafana are in camp in preparation for the crucial first match in the 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Niger. The match will be played on Saturday at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. Kick-off for the match is 20:30.
In the morning the squad was joined by three more players – captain Aaron Mokoena, Macbeth Sibaya and Tsepo Masilela being the first overseas-based players to arrive. Bongani Khumalo, who spent a week on trial with Tottenham Hotspur in England, is also in camp – which makes it 20 players in camp.
Four players – Steven Pienaar, Daylon Claasen, Anele Ngcongca and Bernard Parker - missed Monday afternoon’s training session but were all expected to arrive in the evening. Siboniso Gaxa, who is attending trials in Belgium, will be the last player to arrive in camp. He is expected on Tuesday morning.
“This match is a continuation of where we left off against Ghana, so it’s crucial that we have players coming in as early as possible. I am happy with the good turnout as it makes it easier for us to prepare properly. We are going to analyse and fix the mistakes of the last match, and at the same time we need to improve and intensify what was good in the previous game,” said Mosimane.
The coach has been monitoring the players’ activity and is aware that some of them have not played a match, but he is not too concerned as the league season has just kicked off.
“We know about the activity of our players here at home and abroad, we know who has played and who hasn’t played. Of the seven overseas-based players that we called up, four of them played 90 minutes for their clubs, two were substituted while one was on the bench – for me that is good enough; we need our players to play as much as possible because we don’t have enough time with them in the national team. Obviously if that continues then we have to assess the situation and make decisions,” added Mosimane.
Bafana Bafana captain Mokoena believes the team needs to qualify especially after failing to be part of the last edition of the 2010 Afcon in Angola.
“As hosts of the 2010 Fifa World Cup it was not good watching the continent going to the tournament and we had not qualified. This time we need to ensure that we are on that plane to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for the 2012 Afcon.
"Without taking anything away from our opponents – Niger, Sierra Leone and Egypt - our performance in the World Cup has shown that we are capable of qualifying and we have no other alternative but to do so. We owe it to ourselves and to the nation to be part of the next Afcon tournament.
"I cannot stress this enough that we need to qualify because being there also helps the team in gaining experience. We have a young side that needs to go through the joys and pains of playing in the Afcon so that when the World Cup tournament comes they are ready for competition,” said Mokoena.
The players had an hour and a half in the gymnasium and did some ball work in the afternoon at Hoerskool Randburg.
Following a routine medical check up when the players report for national team duty, the team doctor has given the squad a clean bill of health, but added that some players have knocks which should not be of a major concern.